Atlanta Braves: How you like me now?
Things are looking a little different, aren’t they? I’ve been keeping a close eye on the boys from Atlanta and it seems as though I may have been on to something in my last post. Then, I read Jamie Shoemaker’s last article and I can’t help myself.
The question is — and be honest — what side of the fence were you on?
Seriously. Were you one of the few who thought the Braves were going to be an awful team, that Fredi Gonzalez needed to be fired, that Chipper Jones was a waste of money and that Jason Heyward was going to have another disappointing season? It’s okay, we’re all friends here. Did you also think that the Philadelphia Phillies would be in last place going into week three?
I would be willing to bet that most of you thought all of the above, minus the bit about the Phillies. At least those of you in Atlanta manned up and made it out to the home opener, which was a total success. Great turnout that entire weekend and we really gave the Braves something to fight for.
This week, the story is entirely different. The Braves lead the majors in runs scored, putting up 74 in their last 10 games through Friday. Their three, four and five pitchers are going deep into games — in fact, closer Craig Kimbrel came in last night with a nine run lead just to get some work in. The same bullpen that went into the end of the season tired and overworked can’t get an inning in.
Now, I don’t want to jinx anything, so let me say that I’m enjoying it while it lasts. I don’t think we’ll play this way for the entire season, so while it’s going on, I’m going to sit back and love every minute of it. But let’s talk about some of the factors that are at play right now.
For one, there’s a wave of momentum. When one hitter gets hot, it becomes contagious. Every one else wants to get in on the ride and be a part of it. It’s the same with pitchers. And while we’re on the topic — how about that offense? Freddie Freeman is hitting like his veins are pumping black powder right now. He’s batting .296 with 12 RBI and three home runs in his last four games through Friday. Jason Heyward upped his hitting streak to 10 games with a late-inning single Friday night, but the streak was halted with an 0-for-4 effort on Saturdaay. Mike Minor and Brandon Beachy are running extremely hot, each pitching at least seven innings in their last two starts.
Now, we go on to face the Los Angeles Dodgers, who are likewise red hot right now, and I do think this hot streak will cool off. But compared to the team who dropped their first four, this is a lovely sight. This offense is strong and will continue to produce, especially now that we’re over the hump. They’ve all broken through and gotten their first (insert goal here) out of the way, which means they can focus on producing runs and winning games.
And to the haters – we’ll forgive you this time. But if you aren’t convinced by now…